Going on holiday when I was a kid was a very organized affair. Everything was packed with precision and no-one went anywhere until everything was unpacked and put in its proper place on arrival. The beach would still be there tomorrow. Rebelling against the upbringing, when we go on holiday, the beach is there for when we arrive; there are plenty of hours of darkness for such things as unpacking, and, anyway, it might be raining tomorrow. The passing years have brought an increasing compulsion to be active
There is a line in Vera Brittain’s Testament of Friendship which captures one person’s frustration at people doing nothing with their lives while she faced terminal illness.
She knew, for the constant demands of her friends had made it clear to her, that her life was infinitely valuable to others. She thought of all the half dead people who ‘put in time’ as though time were not the greatest gift in the universe, while she who could use it superbly, was soon to be deprived of it for ever’.
I remember this time ten years ago, attending the funeral of a good friend who had died of cancer. Just before Christmas, I had visited her in hospital. There was no communication possible other than a hug and a sharing of tears. Driving from the hospital, I realized that life was to be lived, ‘putting in time’ was not an option. My wife’s Christmas present was still unbought and I drove into the city centre and took a wad of cash out of my building society and bought her a flute. I couldn’t afford it, but there would be plenty of other times to put money aside.
Two years ago, a man whose son had died tragically told me to go home and hug my kids because the day might come when I couldn’t do so.
Approaching the final day of another year, there is a sense of lost opportunities, of having had chances to do more. Maybe too much time spent unpacking and not enough time actually doing things. Calling at a house one day in May to arrange a funeral, there was a notice on the fridge door:
Work as if you don’t need the money.
Love as if you have never been hurt.
Dance as if no one is watching.
Sing as if no one is listening.
And live everyday as if it were your last